Man, being the center of the universe is rough. There’s so much to think about when the world revolves around you. Having the fate of mankind rest on your perfectly sculpted shoulders is super stressful, you know?
Sorry, sarcasm-laden ledes are obnoxious. But I think I made my point. If you’re like me (and judging by the amount of manicure-obsessed Judy Blume fans that frequent this site, I think you might be), you tend to care quite a bit about others. Which can be great. But sometimes being so concerned with all the friends, family members, acquaintances, strangers, stray animals and judgmental-looking inanimate objects around you can take a toll. Especially when you assume that every move you make is having an earth-shattering impact.
Case in point: Someone I casually knew fell on hard times a few years ago. We weren’t besties by any stretch of the imagination, but I really felt for her. So when she emailed asking for help on a project, I immediately committed. But life kept getting in the way and I just couldn’t make time.
Guilt consumed me, as it often does. When I saw her in person, I felt like a criminal. I apologized profusely, averted my eyes, reddened with the shame of selfishness. The confusion on her face gave way to this serene expression I don’t think my facial features are even capable of relaxing into. “Michelle,” she said slowly. “You are not the center of my world.”
It was a simple statement, but it really stuck with me. Every person you see on the street is constantly maneuvering through his or her own personal, chaotic mental microcosm. Their thoughts aren’t your thoughts. Their obsessions aren’t your obsessions. And they could care less about that zit on your chin, I promise.
This isn’t to say people don’t care about other people. It’s just a reminder that we should all be easier on ourselves and quit thinking every imperfection and shortcoming will alter some delicate cosmic balance and signal Armageddon.
Keep being the thoughtful, lovely, manicure-obsessed Judy Blume fans you are. But here are some things you can just let go of:
1. No one can tell you’ve gained weight/have a pimple/hate your outfit/chipped your polish.
It’s a flat-out lie to say people don’t notice physical features. But many of us have a tendency to examine and analyze our own bodies, faces, pores and nail beds under a microscope. Generally speaking, that’s just not how the rest of the world is sizing us up. And most likely, that’s not how you evaluate the rest of the world. Your bathroom scale might callously accuse you of putting on a few extra pounds, but human beings are usually less reactive and cruel than mechanized devices. Usually. But if you come across one that cares enough to notice (or worse, point out) some minor physical flaw or fluctuation, you may want to seek out better company.
2. That death stare probably wasn’t aimed at you.
Everyone gives an ill-intentioned side-eye once in a while. Occasionally, we allcan’t help but glare at a chronic throat-clearer or loud-talker.” But not every eye-roll, snicker and scowl in the general vicinity is a result of something you did. The clearest example I can give is the time I spent a week living in fear that I had pissed off my roommate. She seemed irritable, moody, standoffish. I racked my brain day and night, trying to think of what I did or said to set her off. As it turned out, she’d been having… gastrointestinal issues all week. Is there anything more narcissistic than assuming you’re responsible for the distinct angst only attributable to abdominal distress? Probably not. My ego was bruised, but our relationship remained unscathed.
3. No one remembers that dumb thing you said.
We all have momentary blips in brain activity that can result in really regrettable statements. But aside from the rare verbal blunder that is so epic, your friends mercilessly mock you about it for years (only true friends are allowed to mock you for years, by the way), most people won’t remember what you said five seconds ago. Yes, you may have mistakenly called someone by the wrong name or inadvertently insulted that person’s third cousin once removed, but most people have the memory spans of goldfish (which, as it turns out, are not that short, but you get the point). Chances are, no one is nearly as critical of your mistakes as you are. So learn to let the small stuff slide when you can. You could be using all that mental energy to appreciate your pores and nail beds.